Captain’s Log: LibertyCon 31

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Opening Ceremonies: Brandy Spraker, convention chair

Yet another family reunion has come and gone. Yes, family reunion, because that is what LibertyCon is to me. These people are my tribe. No, we don’t necessarily agree on some things, but what family does? The beauty of LibertyCon is that we don’t judge each other by our differences… and in this time in history, the very lack of toxicity is something to be cherished.

Sadly, I will have to miss this assemblage in 2019. The only way I will be able to attend is at the cost of someone else having to miss it then. For the very first time in the history of the convention, memberships sold out in a single day! In 6 hours, no less! I am on the wait list, but there are many more besides me and ahead of me. (You snooze; you lose.)

Hopefully, I will be able to secure a membership for 2020.

This year, however, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I actually made my first book sale of the convention before I even got the books into the building. a young woman by the name of Keesha, stopped me at the corner and asked me about the convention. She was disappointed she hadn’t know about it beforehand in time to get a badge. I told her where to find it online, and we both bemoaned the local media’s habit of not reporting about the local sci/fi cons until the last day of the convention (Oh, by the way, there was a science fiction convention this weekend. By the time you read/see this, it will be nearly time for them to close up shop.) Then, because I was in my real clothes for a change instead of my work costume or street clothes, she asked me if I was portraying a specific character or what. When she learned I was an author and that I write about pirates that aren’t nice and vampires that don’t sparkle (among other things) and that my Waves of Darkness series is currently out of publication, she bought one of my few remaining copies of Blood Curse. (I honestly think she would have bought the entire series if she could’ve done so without feeling guilty about it. 7 books in one shot can be a bit overwhelming.)

Over the entire weekend, I sold 9 books and am completely out of book 1 until I can get them back in publication (hopefully with the help of an experienced agent).

I learned some valuable tips and information on furthering my writing career, one of the things I prize this convention for. After all, not only is it a sci/fi con, it is a literary con. MY TRIBE READS BOOKS!

While I didn’t get to attend Terry Maggert‘s workshop on Writing Effective Amazon Ads for Indie Writers due to a schedule conflict, he has promised to send me a copy of the presentation.

I did get to attend John Van Stry‘s workshop on How to Become More Successful as an Indy Author. I took notes.

I honestly believe my current writing and self-promoting slump… no, I know the slump is due to the massive overtime I’ve been working the past month and am still facing for the next 3 months, at least. It’s just hard to make the time for it, when all one has time to do when they get home is eat, shower, and sleep. I’m simply going to have to make at least a half hour every other day to work on what I have to in order to keep my stories alive, both in my mind and in the minds and eyes of my potential audience.

That’s another thing about LibertyCon I love; it recharges my creative batteries and determination.

Two other panels I make a point to attend every year are the Space Update and the Mad Scientists’ Roundtable, both of which are moderated by Les Johnson, author and real-life rocket scientist. Both are so info-packed as to be too much to cover in a single post.

I thankfully was able to attend Atlanta Radio Theatre Company‘s performances of Robert A. Heinlein‘s The Man Who Travelled in Elephant’s (dedicated to the late Harlan Ellison, who first performed the role of The Ringmaster in ARTC’s first performance of the audio adaption at Dragon*Con 20 years ago) and George Alec Effinger‘s Terrific Park.

I followed this up with Writers Telling Sea Stories, an assemblage of former Navy authors sharing their fish tales and how they aided them in their writing (especially if writing military s/f). Of course, there wasn’t a deck ape among them, just snipes, IT, carrier personnel, and submariners.

As expected, my shared reading at 2pm Sunday didn’t happen. Sunday afternoon panels rarely get attended, because about half of the con-goers are heading to the airport or on the road so they can be home in time for work Monday.

As soon as I get around to it, I’ll post the 2 filk songs I recorded, performed by Gray Rinehart, on my Viksbelle channel on YouTube.

All in all, great con!

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Captain’s Log: ConNooga XI 2018

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Hey, I’m a pirate. I’m taking the Iron Throne AND the dragons! (Props courtesy of Prop House 42, who were doing photo ops for donations to the STARS charity.)

I decided some time last year not to run an author’s table at ConNooga this year. My sales last year just didn’t bear up the expense. Instead, I opted to be a “book pusher” carrying a few copies around in my roller bag. I did that the first year the books were available in print and had good results.
I didn’t do as well as I did that first time; but I sold as many books as I did last year without the expense of a table. I’m happy with that.
Since I wasn’t tied to a table, I was able to really enjoy the convention this year.
I noticed some improvements in the placing of vendors. Authors were dispersed throughout the dealer room as well as a few in the main hall.
In addition to the convention center’s concession stand and the food trucks from Rolling J’s, Chick-n-nooga, and Spill the Beans, I saw 2 or 3 stalls selling pocky and other Japanese snacks along with anime collectables. Copper Kettle Gourmet Nuts was in the dealer room, and Bayou Billy’s Sweet Tea in the gaming room. There were a few gaming groups and a game vendor in the gaming room, too.
Most of the other conventions advertising themselves had tables in the main hall.
Plus, there were a wide variety of photo backdrops to choose from throughout the convention center.
I attended maybe half of the panels I’d planned on. Canvassing the dealer room and costume hunting ate more of my time than I thought it would. I still enjoyed myself and went to the ones most important to me.
First panel I attended was On a Budget: Self Publishing Overview with Gil Hough, Kenyon T. Henry, and Paul Cagle. I followed this up with Self Publishing 101 with Gil Hough and Jim Hodgson. Both panels were very informative and helpful in making some decisions about my self publishing options.
Even though I wasn’t slated to be a panelist this year, T. J. Morris asked me to help out with his panel, How to Develop Your Science Fiction Character. Honestly, I think he just wanted someone for backup in case he choked  (which he didn’t). I did contribute a little, but he had it well in hand. I picked up a few pointers which will help me improve my own skills.  (I also need to get the info on his cover artist; those were the type of covers that grab you by the eyeballs, remind you they are directly connected to your wallet, and say, “You. Need. This. Book!”)
Of course, I attended the Dark Princess Theatre panel. They gave some teaser performances of upcoming and new stories for their podcast. Sunday, I caught a glimpse of Hope “Lady Gwendolyn” Holloway’s husband, John, cosplaying a mundane. I have photographic evidence in my photo gallery of the convention on FB.
While I didn’t make it to the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company (ARTC) show, I did stop by both their booths and visit. Picked up a copy of their adaption of Treasure Island. Been waiting on that one. This was their first year at ConNooga. I usually catch them at LibertyCon.
I spent most of Saturday morning wandering the dealer room. That afternoon, I went to the first half of the Radio Cult concert then to the Gender in Fiction by Authors panel with panelists Alice Turner, Sandy Giamportone, Shannon Chandler  (no relation that I’m aware of… she may be a distant cousin), and Sophia Smith.  The concert was fantastic, as usual. The panel was interesting and raised some questions I hadn’t thought of.
Went to the costume contest as I do every year.
The last 3 panels I attended were all comics related: So You Want to Make Comics, with Dana Ortega, Matt Murphy, and Tara Hamilton; Okay Then Let’s Make Comics, with the same panelists; and How Comic Books Changed My Life, with Jared Jordan and Mark Compton. It was a fun evening.

I spent the entirety of Sunday roaming the dealer room and main hall on a costume hunt and pushing my books. I collected a TON of business cards to glean for more listings in the Smugglers Cove and Hucksters Haven.

I’m also keeping an eye open for when pre-registration opens for ConNooga XII.

Captain’s Log: Chattacon 43

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Author D. Alan Lewis (Blood In Snowflake Garden) tries on a yarn Krampus hat from Spinner’s End Studio (Joy Wandrey, knitnick@gmail.com).

Chattacon 43 turned out quite enjoyable and much more cozy at The Chattanoogan hotel. While the space for the Dealer Room was a bit snug compared to the space we had at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, it was still plenty of room for a wide variety of vendors. For the first time since I’ve attended this convention, all of the book vendors were individual authors; no travelling book stores. Artists, crafters, costumers and leatherworkers, jewelry makers, memorabilia and collectibles dealers, steampunk prop makers, and a t-shirt vendor rounded out the group.

Programming covered literary and writing topics, art, film, costuming, fandom, and gaming. I picked up several ideas and pointers as well as offers of future advice for my plans to go  into self publishing some of my works from some who have already made forays into that aspect of the publishing world. I hope I was able to offer some useful tips to the budding authors I met who are just now entering this often frustrating and occasionally rewarding world.

I only attended one room party (Libertycon’s party) Friday night and none Saturday. I’m not sure how many there were, but I don’t think the hotel management really wanted any of them. Room parties don’t mesh well with hotel security features. Convention security had to maintain a person at the elevators in order to enable them. One cannot make the elevator go up from the lobby in this without a room key card. This is great for keeping someone from off the street gaining room access for burgling, but it makes for an inconvenience for convention goers wishing to enjoy the tradition of circulating among the room parties.

Thanks to convention staff for running a con suite at this con; a tradition I hope never goes away. If not for them, some of us would have gone hungry. The main restaurant in the hotel was NOT what I consider affordable; a sentiment I heard echoed frequently by the second day. This may also have played a factor in the low sales in the dealer room. Does one buy books and nifty stuff or something to eat? (I only sold 4 books; even authors with better sales said the numbers were lower than what they were used to.)

On a side note: I plan to set up a page on this blog dedicated to sharing links from business cards, post cards, and bookmarks I’ve collected at conventions over the past few years. These are for your use at your discretion. If I’ve actually purchased from any of the vendors or authors linked, I’ll give my recommendation; otherwise, it is purely free signal boosting for those who’ve worked the cons I’ve attended.

So watch for it.

Captain’s Log: HallowCon 2017

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I will say right now that I thoroughly enjoyed my first attendance of HallowCon, and I will definitely add this convention to the list of those I regularly attend.

JoeDog McKeel’s first chairing of this con was a success despite all the last minute obstacles which popped up (mostly in the form of passive aggressive resistance from the hotel). Needless to say, HallowCon will be in a different location next year, as unwelcome as the convention and con-goers were made to feel.

I did not have a room at the hotel, being local and able to go home every night; so I will not go into detail on the complaints I heard from those who did book rooms. I will, however mention observations I made about the common areas.

First off, the lack of working electrical outlets along the hallway used for Author’s Alley was aggravating. These were working the day before the con started but not at all during the entire weekend. Thankfully, a working outlet was discovered in the breakfast area at the end of the hall, and a charging station could be set up for members and guests to keep their devices operational.

Some might say, “Who needs to be on their phone/tablet/laptop during a convention?” Please keep in mind, those of us there to sell our works/products often use our devices in tandem with card reading apps to allow us to make credit sales as well as cash sales.

The one other thing I found troubling about the venue was the lack of a handicap accessible bathroom stall in the restroom just off the lobby for common area use. How is that legal and up to code?

All that aside, the con was a blast and a much needed break from Mundania. Being a Halloween convention, there was no lack of cosplay and costuming. (The difference between those terms is whether a costume represents a specific character/creature or just a generic style of costume.) I made a few new friends and reconnected with some old ones.

There were also a few missed opportunities I wish I had taken.

Across the hallway and just a little catty-corner from my table spot was the author/media guest, Santiago Cirilo (Julio from season 4 of The Walking Dead). I never really tried to introduce myself or get to know him. I know I may come across as bold and outgoing sometimes, but I can find my introverted side taking dominance when faced with someone with genuine celebrity. I also allowed myself to be intimidated by his energy and exuberance. Still, what I observed of him leads me to believe he is a genuinely nice person. I hope he will forgive my shyness.

The Charity Auction this year benefitted the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. JoeDog and Donna McKeel chose this charity in honor of their granddaughter, who suffers from this condition. Joe added an additional 10% of the total funds raised by the auction to the donation. At the last report I heard, $1000 was raised just in the auction. I donated a full set of books.

As for the Con Suite, I must say this was the best food I’ve ever had at a convention.

My sales weren’t great, but they were better than at some conventions I attended earlier this year. I had a total of one customer, but she bought a full set of the series.

This marked my second time to attend a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the first time to see one with a shadow cast acting out the movie along with it. Quite the experience, I must say.

Yes, I did the Time Warp again.

This audience was a bit more raucous than the one I previously viewed it with at Chattacon a couple of years ago.

As expected, a large number of guests and con-goers departed early on Sunday. Some came from as far away as Mississippi to attend this con and had to be back to work Monday morning.

I’m looking forward to next year.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to Edwin Morgan. He was promoting/recruiting for the Catoosa County 2017 Film Festival which will be in Ringgold, GA December 1-3. I wish I could attend, but I’ve exhausted all my paid time off for this year. Hopefully, I’ll have some to spare for next year. Also, it was some of his brood who kept raiding the candy and pirate swag (plastic coins, Mardi Gras beads, and glass pebbles) I placed out as freebies. I received several thank you hugs from one of his daughters.027

Don’t let the cute mini-Harley outfit fool ya; she’s a pirate at heart.

If you want to see more pics from the con, I have them up on FB here.

 

Please Stand By

I promise I will post a full report on HallowCon by this coming weekend. 11 hour work shifts and other concerns have had to take priority.

Also, for financial reasons, I will probably NOT be attending ConNooga in 2018. I WILL be at Chattacon; I already have a table reserved in the Dealer Hall. I just don’t think I’m going to be in a position to afford doing two cons that close together next year.

Captain’s Log: LibertyCon XXX

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Well maties, another LibertyCon has come and gone. Once again, this has proven my favorite convention (and best selling, too). Even though my first panel, Whats’ New in Pirate Fantasy? (with Michael H. Hanson and Rocky Perry) was at ONE on Friday (a time when many cons are still a few hours away from even starting) it had a decent turn-out (10 or so, not bad for early Friday afternoon).

While my book sales were not as good as last year’s, they were still better than the other cons I’ve done this year. I sold nine books, and at least one of every title available. Three of my sales were to repeat customers either completing or at least continuing their collection of the series. The Maelstrom of Fate signed copy pre-order sale was a bust, however. I promise to work on figuring out how to run it through Paypal and re-opening it in September online.

My scheduled reading didn’t pan out. Late events on a Sunday are always lightly or unattended as many con-goers check out from the hotel and depart for home early. I had no attendees, not even the other author scheduled to share the time slot. Still, I managed to get in a brief impromptu reading at the Kaffeeklatsch Sunday morning. I was joking with one of my table mates about the lack of rum at the breakfast (I was in my pirate garb, of course), then mentioned one of my characters (Jon-Jon) who would complain about being entirely too sober. This led to reading a short excerpt from Blood Curse (book 1) with a scene between him and Viktor which was well received.

Some of the panels I attended but didn’t sit on were How to Approach a Publisher; Practical Linguistics in the Development of Voice; Indie Publishing Workshop; and the Mad Scientists Roundtable. While there were a few space related panels, we didn’t get the Space Update this year. Les Johnson was away in Italy at a Space Conference. Rob Hampson (aka Speaker to Lab Animals, formerly aka Tedd Roberts) hosted the Roundtable.

How to Approach a Publisher: This panel was run by Gray Rinehart, Gary Poole aka Kelly Lockhart, Dan Hollifield, and Michael H. Hanson. STICK TO SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! Be nice and keep it professional. Tell a GOOD story and WRITE WELL (you know, properly spelled used correctly with correct punctuation). Network! This is what lit cons are for: get to know the pros you meet; have conversation with them; ask questions/advice; DO NOT HAND THEM A MANUSCRIPT AT A CON (see first point)! If you handle this correctly, they will be familiar with your name and it might help move you PROPERLY SUBMITTED manuscript to the top of the pile. Be willing to accept critical review.

Practical Linguistics in the Development of Voice was a workshop run by Kevin Hearne, this year’s Literary Guest of Honor. I wish it could have been a two hour workshop instead of one, I still haven’t finished my writing exercise. I guess flash fiction just isn’t my forte. (My brain goes much faster than my hands, which makes it tricky to keep up.) Still, I found this workshop very useful and plan to hang onto my notes from it. I may do a separate blog post just on this at a later date. It’s a lot to cover. Suffice to say for now that Those People who say, “Voice can’t be taught; you either have it or you don’t,” are WRONG.

The Indie Publishing Workshop was supposed to have been run by Peter Grant and Dorothy Klapp, but they were double booked for the time slot. (A panel in another room got cancelled and everything in that room was bumped up an hour, hence the unintentional double booking.) Therefore, Jim Curtis, Tom Rogneby, and John Van Stry (none of whom were listed as attending pros but ARE indie/self published authors) stood in for them. This was another event which will require its own blog post to cover everything, but they covered everything from pre-publication to marketing for those who wish to go the indie/self-pub route. Even audiobooks were mentioned.

Speaking of, I got the same referral from two different authors/publishers who dabble in audiobook editions of their books: ACX.com. “Artistic Creative Exchange” is Amazon/Audibel’s self-pub arm and something I plan to look into for Waves of Darkness. I hold the audio rights to my books, and I’ve had at least five people in the past month ask me if I have them available on audio. I’ve been wanting to take Viktor to audio for several years now, but always thought it was something I couldn’t afford. What I learned at this con tells me the time is right to finally take that leap.

The Mad Scientists Roundtable, a LibertyCon tradition, covered several interesting topics this year. We started with the Kepler project, which has discovered aver 2300 exo-planets thus far. This led to discussion of the TESS mission to try to find Earth-like planets and life-markers. The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop was mentioned along with questions such as should we be looking? and how far out should we try to go? It was agreed that even though we may not have the tech to REACH an exo-planet, finding one which meets the life-sustainability criteria would give us the impetus to DEVELOP the tech. The question was also raised on whether we should focus on trying to reach Mars or to shoot for one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, such as Enceladus (which has water). This was debated without a general consensus; in fact aiming for some of the larger asteroids was mentioned as yet another option. Of course, any such mission would require more study of the long-term effects of radiation exposure and micro-gravity on human life and longevity.

The next subject was quantum computing. Someone wondered if it was the “next cold fusion” in that they keep promising it but never quite delivering. Questions raised were: what will we use it for; is it the next step to true artificial intelligence; and can we make it commercially viable? It seemed generally agreed that this was totally unknown and some scary $#!t.

Of course, this discussion led to the news Elon Musk has launched a company called Neuro-Link seeking to find ways to create a brain/computer interface. Currently, this ONLY exists in science fiction, although experimental medical electronic implants exist to treat certain brain disorders/injuries (with varying success; and they aren’t computer linked). The possibilities of using this tech once it finally manifests to reprogram one’s body to self-correct medical issues came up. The questions discussed were: would you want a biomedical implant; and when should we allow people to elect to have one as opposed to it being a medical necessity? Many agreed this should not go forward until there is some way to protect against hackers. Still, many saw a commercial potential for such implants (especially among gamers who could use one to improve and augment reaction times). One this was certain: this kind of tech will raise all sorts of ethics questions along the way, especially with the potential for abuse (read: mind control). Also the question came up of could you be forced to have one, say by the government or even your employer?

The Roundtable ended with the question of when will we have fusion.

As was pointed out by one wag, we already have a fusion generator… 92,955,807 miles away.

I realize I’m jumping about, chronologically speaking, in this report. I also wanted to share this recording of Gray Rinehart performing the filk song he specifically wrote for LibertyCon last year when he was MC.

Then, it was a tribute to fandom and the late David Bowie; now, it is a tribute to LibertyCon’s longevity and last year at the  Chattanooga Choo Choo. Exactly when and where the next LibertyCon will be depends on what sort of contract Brandy Spraker and the board of directors can work out with another venue.

Once this is settled and the information available, you can bet I will be buying my membership for next year.

Also, look forward to an expanded cosplay/costuming track at LibertyCon. I’ll post more on that as the info becomes available.

Captain’s Log: Con Nooga X

I’ll start by saying that, although I didn’t attend many panels nor serve on any, I did enjoy Con Nooga X. I spent the majority of my time in the Exhibitor Hall at my table. I’m glad to say the organizers did place tables along the outer walls this year. Last year nothing was placed along the wall on the last row, and many con goers didn’t realize there WERE tables on that row to browse and shop at. I will have to remember next year to request electricity for my table so I can power my laptop or recharge my phone (which I use for my card reader). I also plan to watch the website for when preregistration opens in order to (hopefully) get a more central table instead of one on the last row.

My book sales were poor. I only sold two copies of Blood Curse, not enough to cover the price I paid for my table. Seeing and hearing how book sales were at other author tables (we weren’t all on one row this year, but scattered about the room), I’m not sure if this was due to my prices (something I have very limited control over/ I am NOT self-published), the genre mix of my books, or my sales pitch. I’m thinking it was mostly due to the genre mix. Sometimes you just don’t get the right audience.

I did encounter several who seemed to like the idea behind the stories, but only two with the funds and the willingness to purchase copies. Several showed interest in the ebook versions, but I won’t know if the interest will result in any online sales until I get the royalty report for the first quarter from my publisher.

I also have gotten good feedback, both at the convention from a current reader who didn’t have the funds to get the next book in their journey through the series yet, and from a coworker who’s recently embarked on the same journey. This feedback came at a most needed time, since the poor sales at this convention and the previous convention dealt a blow to my confidence as an author.

If you follow an author and enjoy their work, PLEASE TELL THEM. It will help guarantee they continue to provide you with the stories you enjoy.

Back to the convention: the costume hunt this year was very successful. I think I took over 200 photos during the three days of the con. You can see them here, even if you don’t use FB.

I also took this little video of the cutest little Jedi I’ve ever seen.

I only attended a few panels, as I stated earlier. One was with Martin Klebba who played Marty in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He talked about his work not only on the Pirates movies but as a stunt man, how he got into acting, and his dream of becoming a police officer if/when they ever do away with the height restriction.

I attended the Dark Princess Theatre panel/show in which Lady Gwendolyne (Hope Holloway) explained how she, as an undead professional Black Widow, goes about selecting her next vict… er husband, and the order and speed with which to marry and dispose of him once he meets her standards (rich, landed, no close relatives to get nosy). During the show, her first prospective victim from the audience left once he realized this was NOT a burlesque show, and she would not be getting naked.

Hope and her husband, John, also act as guides for the Chattanooga Ghost Tours.

Another panel I attended was “This One Time at a Con.” This one got pretty raunchy, not visually mind you, but in the stories related. One of the panelists became known as “The Man Who Kicked Jayne” for drunkenly kicking Adam Baldwin in the nuts after getting snubbed by the actor in favor of a couple of hotties when seeking an autograph. There were also stories of sex, both with celebrities and in semi-public places; BDSM in the hallway at a con run by some rather conservative organizers; room party stories such as one of the panelists commonly known as “the Dude” encountering a naked chick with a supersoaker filled with booze at a party, leading to a drunken black out and coming to ad-libbing ala MST3K some crappy TV show next to Seth Green; encountering Dr. Rocksoff, a local entertainer at one time, back at Con Nooga 6, in full clown makeup but naked from the neck down just as he jumped into the pool… the outdoor pool… in FEBRUARY; and another story about the Dude when he had a bowling bag dispenser filled with White Russian. Before the panel could even get under weigh, however, we had to relocated to another room. We were too loud for the drag queen panel in the next conference room. About midway through the panel, we were invaded by clowns.

This was the first Con Nooga in a few years where I didn’t attend any of the room parties personally. It turned cold Saturday night, and I didn’t have a very warm version of my pirate garb on.

The one event I wanted to attend but missed was Friday night’s Radio Cult concert. The event preceding it did not clear the stage on time. In fact, they ran at least 45 minutes over or more. (I know this because that’s how long I waited before I gave up and went home. Had to make sure I got enough rest before coming back out the next morning to man my table.)

I will be back at Con Nooga next year.